"I apply a vinyl stencil with the image, cover the piece with acid, let it sit 10 minutes, remove the stencil to reveal the design, rinse the piece and cap it with clear crystal glass," he said. "It's fired in a kiln at 1,400 degrees."
Dichroic glass comes in many colors but he usually uses black for the background in order to have a nice contrast. Dichroic glass of any color he chooses is used on top of the piece for a dazzling image or shimmering colors.
Creating his pieces takes skill, experimentation, perseverance and knowledge. He stresses the importance of documenting successful projects and keeps a notebook filled with details.
"Different glasses react differently at different temperatures," he said.
His educational background helps with honing his skills. He holds a bachelor's in chemistry and biology from West Virginia University and a master's in business from West Virginia College of Graduate Studies.
As the dazzling jewelry is completed, his wife and daughters get first pick, he said.
He and his wife, Lois, are the parents of Lisa Bennett, of Seattle, and Lindsey Downey, a first grade teacher at Piedmont Elementary in Charleston.
Aside from his jewelry, personalized plates have become very popular. He has developed his own methods for putting images on plates such as photographs, wedding invitations and graduation announcements. He declines to share some details about this process.
However, he does teach jewelry-making classes each year at the Festival of Glass at Blenko Glass Co. in Milton. His work is sold at Blenko as well as Cornucopia on Bridge Road in Charleston, and Mug and Pia near Pullman Square in Huntington. Items are also available on his website, www.ernsglass.com. For more information, contact Downey at Ernsgl...@ aol.com or 304-727-6455.